Low Back Pain and Substance Abuse


A year ago I posted a piece about the relationship between joint pain and digestive abuse--an after-effect of  holiday cheer.  You’d think I’d learn, but guess what?  This year I’m fessing up again, with a different twist. Beginning in December I experienced pain in my right hip, with radiating pain down my right leg and into my knee and low back stiffness. This was demoralizing because I’d been low back pain-free for three years, ever since becoming sincere about tending to my deep core strength. The pain was weirdly intermittent. A good Pilates class seemed to chase it away, but in a few  days, back it came.  One night it woke me up in the middle of the night.

Since the episode began at the beginning of December, I tried to think what had set it off. I had learned my sugar lesson last year, so what had I been doing differently this time?  Well, I’d attended some workshops by Phillip Beachwho proposes, among other things, that most exercise programs are too focused on single body parts.  A better way of tuning the body encompasses whole body movements such as those our ancient forebears routinely performed. Sitting and arising from the ground promotes full body musculo-skeletal fitness.

There’s even research that correlates the ability to sit and rise from the floor (without using hands or knees) with lessened mortality risk. Talk about core strengthening!

Since the workshops, I had been practicing “ancestral postures” of squatting and toe kneeling and rising up from sitting cross-legged on the floor.  Perhaps I’d been over-enthusiastic, strained my sacroiliac joint, and set off some nerve inflammation.

I was about to seek some sort of therapy last Tuesday, when the thought came to me:  COFFEE!  I’ve known for years that my ileocecal valve is irritated by caffeine, and that it can set off a low back episode. This important passageway between the small and large intestines can be irritated by many foods, not just coffee.  The IC valve is adjacent to the right sacroiliac joint, so nerves that run from there into the leg become inflamed as well.

I’d gone for months without drinking it, and then one day—in December!-- I had a lovely cafe au lait without bad effect. I love coffee! Within weeks it was two cups a day.

Last Tuesday I stopped drinking coffee.  By Wednesday my hip and back were 50% better!  On Thursday, no pain at all.

Posture and movement are profoundly affected by the health of our internal organs. Annoying, but true.  Coffee might not be your camel's straw, but chances are, something is. (More about Beach's "erectorcises" in months to come.)

© 2014 Mary Bond